LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Southern New Mexico authorities rescued a group of over 20 hikers from El Paso early Monday after they became stranded while attempting to climb one of the most difficult ascents in the Organ Mountains.
The 24 El Pasoans, who ranged in age from teens to mid-60s, got disoriented during Sunday night's sunset and were unable to find their way off the mountain following what officials described as a "rather ambitious attempt" to scale The Needle.
"I really don't know what went wrong... because we were prepared," one of those hikers, Veronica Estrada, told ABC-7. "It's just one of those things that happened."
First-responders said some members of the hiking group were lacking in trail experience and became separated from the others during the ordeal. Hikers made several calls to 911 prompting the search and rescue mission.
"Always research what it is that you’re getting into," said Ned Tutor, the ground team leader for Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue. His team worked to rescue the hikers from sundown on Sunday to sunrise on Monday.
A 47-year-old woman, who was hurt and unable to move on her own, had to be carried off the mountain on a UTV. She was being treated at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces with what were described as non-life threatening injuries.
“She had taken, I believe several falls," Tutor told ABC-7. "I think unfortunately, she had a lot of cactus injury.”
Several other hikers suffered minor injuries, ranging from scrapes and bruises to dehydration, officials said.
Las Cruces firefighters and Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue crews indicated this was their third rescue mission so far this year in the Organ Mountains.
Safety tips from the Las Cruces Fire Department
• Know your capabilities and the terrain for which you will be hiking.
• Plan your trek carefully and take into consideration weather reports, the expected duration of your trek and other conditions which may be faced during your adventure.
• Never hike or backpack alone.• Keep groups together unless it’s absolutely necessary to separate.
• Follow all signage and refrain from straying from established trails.
• Carry a fully charged cellular or satellite phone in case of an emergency. Avoid depleting a cell phone’s battery by overusing the camera function.
• Carry a flashlight and extra batteries.
• Tell a friend or relative where you are going and when you expect to return. If you have not returned by the designated time, they should know to contact authorities.
• Take plenty of water and food to sustain you during the trek.
• Keep in mind, warm daytime temperatures and relatively high elevations expend energy quickly.
• Wear proper attire for the trek. It’s best to dress in layers that can be easily removed – or added – depending on conditions.
• Wear a hat or proper head covering.• Wear boots or hiking shoes that are comfortable and suitable for the terrain to be covered.
• Be aware of changing weather conditions and the potential for flash floods from rains that occur upstream from your location.
• Beware of snakes that are more active during warmer weather and as daytime temperatures rise. Snakebite victims should seek help immediately.
• Beware of wild animals that are known to frequent the Organ Mountains and other areas nearby: bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, deer and African oryx. Never approach or attempt to handle a wild animal.• If hiking with a dog, take into consideration its needs and safety requirements for the trek.
• Dispose of waste properly and use the “Pack it In, Pack it Out” motto to help keep wild areas pristine.